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Ratanakkiri Families File Deforestation Suit

Nearly 80 minority families in Ratanakkiri province filed suit in provincial court Monday, alleging that a military official and businessman had deforested state land to install a plantation.

The 79 families, from Lumphat district, alleged through two representatives that since 2003, Khim Khengchou, 50, a military official, colluded with local businessman Sman Slesh, 51, to produce 600 hectares of rubber and bean plantation.

The two cut down trees in protected forest, near where the families live, according to the complaint.

In a brief statement by phone Tuesday, Sman Slesh denied the accusations. Khim Khengchou could not be reached for comment.

Deputy provincial prosecutor Ros Saram said he had received the complaint, which was filed with the help of the human rights group Adhoc, and would act on it soon. His office was backlogged with many other complaints, he said.

Adhoc meanwhile is planning a march in Ratanakkiri town Oct. 27 to demand further implementation of the law and a crackdown on deforestation in the province.

The Ministry of Interior on Tuesday agreed to permit the march.